Adding mood to your photography


For a photograph to stand out among the crowd, it has to have an instant appeal. This is obvious and relates to all art. Composition including a good balance of the elements within the frame often become lost if the lighting is poor. There is not a given rule however that good composition leads to a photograph that is individual and has that wow factor. More often than not, the light and weather conditions falling onto the scene make an image pop and result in that instant satisfaction. Mood is a main contributor to a satisfying image but what is mood?

When I think of mood, I instantly relate it to a state of mind that is sad, sullen, dark or reflective. The meaning of mood is ‘ a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion’ I don’t however relate this to happiness or joy. The same reason that when I describe a moody photograph, I often feel a melancholic connection. At the same time when I look at a photograph that has mood, it throws me into a state of mind where I momentary escape and feel a connection to the landscape. I want to stay in that place, away from all the daily distractions. Escape.

Mood is a word I often use when describing a lot of my images when I post to social media or within my portfolio. There are common elements within each image where a description of mood is included. Clouds, mist, black and white are a few to mention. Brooding skies is often a phrase used to describe clouds that are about to explode into a barrage of torrential downpour. A releasing of built up energy, perhaps a metaphor of frustration waiting to be released in anger. Mist covered lakes or low lying clouds kissing the fell tops which hide what lies beyond. Mystery.

A moody shot full of mystery across Bassenthwaite and the fells beyond. The blanket of low cloud act as a veil, giving a hint of what it is hiding.

The conditions and weather therefore play an important part of creating mood. We can as photographers chose to ignore the opportunities of introducing mood to our images. Bad weather can impact motivation and question whether a day in the outdoors is perhaps a good idea if it means getting wet. For me if it means creating atmospheric images that I am happy with, it’s a worthwhile effort. Of course the weather does not have to be inclement. We can be fortunate to witness those misty mornings at a lake side or woodland. This is where mystery plays a role. The mist acts as a veil draped over the scene. It gives a hint of the landscape but doesn’t reveal its full content. It brings a question of what lies beyond. It creates a mood of reflection and perhaps happier times.

There are no technical must haves with creating moody images but by choosing how we process in the digital dark room, can often lead to getting the right result. Black and white adds a certain timelessness to an image and also adds to that dark, sullen emotion. We do not see the world in black and white. It is therefore easier to escape to a place where we feel safe.

A moody black and white Crummock water, shrouded in broody, low lying clouds

Light is often the star of the show and how we choose to position that light in the frame can have a difference to the impact it has. A good example of this is the light from the break in the clouds that shoot down and create a spot light effect on the land. A ray of hope in the dark and sullen surrounds.

The light breaks through the menacing looking clouds and illuminates the land with the Northern Lakeland fells a backdrop

It has more or less become a natural reaction to defining mood in landscape photography. You will often find me walking the fells of the Lake District in all given weather. The images that so often please me the most are those shots that I have had to endure the kind of conditions that most people stay away from. The harsh winds and relentless rain are common in my travels but every now and then I come away with the results that convey the mood I am happy to escape to.

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